Catholic bishops slam Dalit atrocities in India

Cardinal Baselios Cleemis

Published on:  July 22, 2016 Story By: Matters India Reporter

Cardinal Cleemis

                     (Note: Finally, the whole Church in India can give out a sigh of relief and sing the “Te Deum” (song of thanksgiving) for the long awaited condemnation from Cardinal Cleemis of Trivandrum, Chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI).

                    He has spoken at least three months after the kidnap and torture of Bishop Gallela of Kadapa – an incident which took place on April 25th. Better late than never, though the rule is: “You should strike when the Iron is blazing hot” if it is to register any impact on the iron, not when it has become cold as  ice after 3 months. Though late he has risen to the demands of his office, because it has to be seen against what Fr.AXJ Bosco sj, Adviser, National council of Dalit Christians and 11 Lay  Christian associations  wrote to Cleemis, on  May 18th and July 13th respectively: “Cardinal Cleemis, the President of CBCI, who went all the way to Kolkata to meet the nun who was in distress (which was very kind of him), and to comfort her, could not find the way to Kadapa to meet and console his own brother Bishop who had to go through the agony of being betrayed and tortured by his own priests.” Fr. Bosco has not received even an acknowledgement to his letter of may 18th.

                     Also his reference to Kadappa  kidnap figures only at the tail end of his statement after discussing Gujarat and Kandamal attacks on dalits, asking strong legal action against the criminal priests. The truth is the three priests are already out on bail which makes one fail to understand the nature of any strong action.

                   What the whole Catholic church, especially the laity, and most importantly the Dalit Christians rightly demand from the hierarchical church is a clear recounting of  actions the Hierarchical church took from April 25 th to today (July 25th) to prove they are serious in what they say, that they are walking in the foot steps of Jesus who said: “I have James Kottorspoken things from the House tops, not anything in secret” (Palam locutus sum). What is essential is transparency and dialogue. A church without these two traits is bound to witness their flock  to start “thinking with their feet” – just deserting the fold group by group or en mass. james kottoor, editor)

New Delhi: The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) has expressed serious concern over the increasing attacks against Dalits in various parts of the country.

Persecution of Dalits and backward caste people in the name of meat consumption and protection of cattle has become the “order of the day,” regrets CBCI president Cardinal Baselios Cleemis.

A press statement from the cardinal on July 22 urges those “in responsible position” to refrain from activities that deny citizens’ their dignity and equality guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.

Dalits, who have suffered marginalization and social backwardness for millennia, are further inflicted with more pain and deaths even in an independent and democratic India, says the head of the country’s more than 18 million Catholics.

The prelate cites the July 18 thrashing of a seven-member family in Una town of Gir Somnath district in Gujarat as the latest incident of attack against Dalits. A group of gau rakshaks (cow protectors) beat up the family for allegedly skinning a dead cow. Three of the alleged attackers were arrested the next day.

The beatings sparked the most serious protests by Dalits in years in Gujarat, with seven youths trying to kill themselves in protest by taking pesticide in different parts of the state, an act that further inflamed tempers.

In earlier case on July 9 in Odisha’s Kandhamal district, paramilitary forces gunned down six Dalit and tribal people, including a two-year-old child, under the pretext of combating Maoists. Cardinal Cleemis says this incident occurred when the massive killings of Dalit Christians in Kandhamal in 2008 were fresh in people’s memory.

The prelate’s statement points out that the country had recorded more than 27,000 cases of violence against Dalits in 2014 and that such cases saw a 29 percent increase in the past two years.

Expressing the Church’s solidarity with the Dalits, the cardinal urges the state and federal governments to take immediate action against those promoting violence against the Dalit people.

Turning to his own Church, the cardinal condemned the attack against Bishop Galela Prasad of Cuddapah, a Dalit, and demanded strong legal action against the prelate’s attackers, who are upper caste priests.

Bishop Gallela Prasad of Cuddapah was attacked on April 25 when he was returning from a religious function at Karunagari in Kadapa district. Kadapa is some 425 km south of Hyderabad, the capital of Telangana state. It was later revealed some priests of the diocese had masterminded the attack.

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